Archive for November, 2009

Dear Diary: Drop

Monday, November 30th, 2009


All I want to do, lately, is to read books. Yes, books! Not feeds, not blog entries, not even engaging articles in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. Books, period, is what I want to read.

And I have plenty of ’em. Although I’ve been running a sizeable backlog of unread books for several years now, the pile-up these days is something like the US deficit: it’s very difficult to imagine ever catching up with it. Worse, I’ve gotten much better at buying books that I’ll really want to read, when I get round to them. My purchases used to be more aspirational: I’d have liked to have read such-and-such a book. That still happens, of course. But the two very meaty doorstoppers in my nonfiction pile, one about the Thirty Years War (Wilson) and the other about the “Glorious” Revolution (Pincus) are absolute must-reads for me; if I read nothing else, I want to have digested them. I’ve already started in on the War, and I’m loving it, but there’s a certain sadness to the sense that I’ll probably never read C V Wedgwood again.

If I read nothing else! I catalogued eight or nine fiction titles at Facebook the other day. It’s true that two of the books don’t really compel me. Another two, I haven’t really even started. I left off Orhan Pamuk’s new book entirely, by oversight. One book, Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, contains several short stories that I read when they appeared in The New Yorker and — guess what — I’ve read one again and want to re-read the others. Meanwhile, I’m adoring Ms Munro’s compatriot, Mavis Gallant, whose collection of uncollected stories, The Cost of Living, came out a few months ago.

I meant to read a chapter of John Cheever’s Falconer this afternoon. I read Falconer when it came out, in 1977, before I headed off to law school I should think. Blake Bailey’s highly-regarded biography of the author has given Falconer a boost: it’s now generally considered to be Cheever’s best novel. Novels were not Cheever’s forte; he will be remembered for his short stories. But Falconer is being singled out as worthy of reading all the same, possibly because it addresses a number of themes that Cheever hadn’t dared to write about  before.

But I never got to Falconer, because I was overambitious on the paperasse front. The afternoon saw our dining table covered in neat piles of paper, as I gathered caches of documents (receipts, scraps, manuals) from all corners of the apartment. Next to the table was a shopping bag full of discarded items, proof that some progress had been made. But the neat piles have all been stacked, one atop the other, on the bed, in order to make way for dinner (pizza and zucchini sticks — a moral barometer if there ever was one). One forgets how deadly paperwork can be. At some point between around seven-thirty this evening my brain seized up and melted down: Alzheimer paste. On the phone to Kathleen, I  babbled. I couldn’t see how I would ever write up the Daily Office.

But that has become the most familiar fear that I know. Happily, I had read my feeds and made my choices, so that, if I couldn’t afford the luxury of reading, I could still produce some writing.

Monday Scramble: Spectation

Monday, November 30th, 2009


Ross Douthat’s column about the impact of the economy upon generational voting trends is even more interesting for what it omits than it is for what it says.

Recessions, it seems, only benefit liberals when an activist government is perceived to have answers to the crisis. When liberal interventions seem to be effective, a downturn can help midwife an enduring Democratic majority. But if they don’t seem to be working — or worse, if they seem to be working for insiders and favored constituencies, rather than for the common man — then suspicion of state power can trump disillusionment with free markets.

Among voters at large, that’s what seems to be happening at the moment. Nothing the government has done across the last 12 months has inspired much public confidence. Of the billions poured out in bailouts and stimulus, a substantial share has gone to privileged insiders and liberal interest groups — Wall Street bankers, auto unions, public-sector employees. Beltway Democrats have spent months laboring on an enormous health care bill that feels irrelevant, at best, to the continuing unemployment crisis. And Obama and his advisers overpromised on the stimulus package, whose economic boost, while real, remains imperceptible to a nation coping with a double-digit jobless rate.

That  makes sense of course, and it links nicely to the fact that older voters (including most Boomers) have moved rightward over time. What Mr Douthat does not say, however, is that older voters have proved to be singularly unwilling to demand more of elected officials, particularly in the form of campaign-finance reform but also with regard to everything from legislative “rules” — the power-concentrating protocols according to which many state chambers determine seniority and consider bills — to the appointment of federal judges.

It is often tempting to conclude that a generation raised on television (as ours was the first to be) naturally regards government as a kind of reality show that, aside from periodic votes, asks nothing of citizens but passive spectation. (NYT)

Weekend Open Thread: Quaint

Saturday, November 28th, 2009


Constabulary: Virtual No Comment

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Windermere Chief of Police Daniel Sayler sounds like a very discreet kind of guy. Explaining why Elin Nordegren Woods was “frantic, upset,” Chief Sayler observed,

It was her husband laying on the ground.

Having paused to wonder if Tiger Woods was dabbling in midnight road repair (laying asphalt, perhaps), we proceed to Chief Sayler’s exhaustive description of the damage sustained by the golfer’s vehicle.

…not real extensive, but not real light.

In other news, a man suspected of robbing a store in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, has been apprehended in New York State. No, it hasn’t got anything to do with anything, but we didn’t believe that there’s a town called Ho-Ho-Kus, either, until we chanced to drive through it.

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, November 27th, 2009


¶ Matins: On the banks of a faraway sea, Muscato connects.

¶ Lauds: Terry Teachout really likes The Starry Messenger, Kenneth Lonergan’s new play. As the author of a hit book at the moment, Mr Teachout is probably going to garnish somewhat more attention than he might otherwise do. Bravo!

¶ Prime: Felix Salmon finds a great chart illustrating the debt of Dubai.

¶ Tierce: Why the United States is even more medieval than the Holy Roman Empire, and has been, since FDR at least. (Letters of Note).

¶ Sext:  If there was ever proof that this is not one country indivisible under God, it’s in the food. (NYT)

¶ Nones: We thought that the Irish priest problem was dealt with ages ago. Apparently not. My good Catholic wife is mad as hell at Benedict XVI, and contrapuntally so. First, of course, this ought to have never happened. Second, what a distraction it all is from caring for the poor and hungry.

¶ Vespers:  Christopher Tayler says that Stefanie Marsh’s interview with James Ellroy “is a minor classic of the genre” — doubtless because Ellroy himself will never be major. (TimesOnline; via LRB).

¶ Compline: New cases of AIDS are down this year by 17%. With all the other stuff going on in the world, let’s not forget the pain and strife. It’s still a terrible shock. (Short Sharp Science)

Bon weekend à tous!

Dear Diary: Déformation Professionelle

Thursday, November 26th, 2009


Coming home in the middle of the evening from a delightful Thanksgiving feast, I was sorely tempted to take it easy — to go to bed, if truth be told.

But I didn’t; I couldn’t. Even though it was a major national holiday, I couldn’t find anything in the files that authorized a day off from the Daily Office. So I scratched out a highly abbreviated list of links. That wasn’t any good, either; I had to flesh it all out. Just as if it were a nice weekday morning. I’m not kidding: I didn’t have a choice.

We did have a lovely day, though, especially considering that it’s the holiday that we’ve sought to avoid for over five years now.

Daily Office: Thursday

Thursday, November 26th, 2009


¶ Matins: Kenneth Davis writes about the first Thanksgiving to be given on land that would one day be part of the United States — by Huguenots in Florida. Their base, Fort Caroline (named after Charles IX), did not last very long; nor did they: the Spanish eradicated everything in 1565.

Mr Davis’s litany of religious persecutions in America exhorts us to regard Thanksgiving not as the commemoration of a hallowed past but as a celebration of how far we have come from our dark origins — and a reminder of how far we have yet to go. (NYT)

¶ Lauds: Charis Wilson, Edward Weston’s most notable muse (and his only “art wife”), died last Friday in Santa Cruz, aged 95. (Los Angeles Times; via Arts Journal)

As it happens, we’ve been reading about Charis Wilson in Francine Prose’s The Lives of the Muses. Great reading!

¶ Prime: We’re not terribly interested in the recent privatization of Chicago’s parking meters — or, rather, we weren’t until Felix Salmon decided to look into the matter. His conclusion: the city didn’t do too badly, and the contractors are idiots. The detail worth noting is that what Chicago’s alderman wanted, of course, was to raise parking meter prices without being accountable.

¶ Tierce: The Aesthete unearths the strange figure of George Sebastian, an adventurer who married American money and used it to builid Dar Sebastian, still a breathtaking edifice in Hammamet, Tunisia. (An Aesthete’s Lament)

¶ Sext: We love a good prank as much as anybody — probably more, as long as we’re not the victim — and so we’re rejoicing at the news that The Awl now has a whole department devoted to reviewing “pranks and their aftermaths.” Okay, they have Juli Weiner, who we hope is still enrolled in a good college.

¶ Nones: William Finnegan’s New Yorker excellent report on the situation in Honduras is not, sadly, online, although an abstract is available. For regular readers who have been following the matter here, there is little substantially new in the piece, and in fact we were gratified to read that coup leader Roberto Michelletti, in television appearances, “tends to glower, and speak from the side of his mouth, like Dick Cheney.” However, we hadn’t encountered anything like Mr Finnegan’s thumbnail of the constitution that ousted president “Mel” Zelaya wants to replace.

¶ Vespers: We’ve read Lauren Elkin’s review of Jeremy Davies’s Rose Alley several times now, and while we’re not certain that we want to read the novel, we’re intrigued by Ms Elkin’s account of it. (The Second Pass)

¶ Compline: Maria Popova (of Brain Pickings) takes “a look at what the Intenet is doing for learning, curiosity, and creativity outside the classroom.” There’s a lot about TED, which appears to be better understood in Europe than it is here. (Good)

To see how traditional education appears on the Internet, have a look at the Syllabus of Dr E L Skip Knox’s fully online course, sponsored by Boise State University, in HIST101 — The History of Western Civilization. (via MetaFilter)

Dear Diary: Medieval

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


Oh, the things that I was going to do today!

Here’s one of them: if you’re reading this at Portico, you’ll see a bold-faced list of links to the left. Not the “New at Portico” links, but the ones below the centered asterisks. That is a list in dire need of a re-think. (If you’re reading this at The Daily Blague, click here for a look.)

Just for the heck of it, I inserted a much-needed link. Can you find it? It wasn’t there yesterday!

Here’s the deal: Portico is ten years old. My dear daughter, the expectant and imminent mother of my first grandchild, designed it in her spare time in the annus mirabilis 2000. (Maybe in 1999, but I think it was after Y2K.) Some of the code that Megan wrote is still in use, and the site itself is still a “frameset.” Some of the menus are tables, and some of them aren’t. Periodic upgrades and revampings have not been consistent throughout Portico. The navigation system has its own history. (It answers the question, “What was he thinking?”) The whole site is like a pleasant old English manor house, to which successive dukes and earls have added wings in the latest style. (A characteristically grandiose comparison, wouldn’t you say — until you kept reading.) I used to say, back when the site was new, that I envisioned it as a kind of space station, to which new stuff would be added from time to time in no particular fashion; in the virtual world, as in the extraterrestrial, the absence of gravity means that overall design needn’t be visibly coherent. But I think I’ve carried that idea beyond its tensile strength.

So: if I couldn’t find the time to overhaul a brief menu today, when, d’you suppose, am I going to find the time to reorganize all of Portico? Happily, I know the answer. I am going to reorganize all of Portico when a vision of how it ought to look befalls me. When that happens, I’ll be a difficult person to be around for a week or two, and everything but my personal hygiene will be neglected. Until then, I shall plod along in sweetly medieval fashion, higgledy-piggledy to all appearances but really always doing whatever it is that seems right at the time. The problem with doing what seems right at the time is fixing all the old stuff that doing so suddenly renders wrong.

Lately, I’m in love with this page (at Portico). It ought to be the “index” page — the page that opens first — but I’m still in love with the blurry scan of that Pennell print (blurry because the print is in a frame), with nothing but Portico imprinted upon it — an idiosyncrasy that has provoked complaints from quite a number of friends, and doubtless frustrated many more unknown visitors. For years, this page labored under the moniker “Vestibule,” a bad idea for which I have a very hard time accepting responsibility. Now, it’s the most happening page that I’m working on.

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


¶ Matins: We stand at the dawn of the Age of Chrome, and  Bob Cringely advises us to expect something of a tussle between Palo Alto and Redmond. (I, Cringely)

¶ Lauds: The bad news — brain damage — once again yields good news about how the brain works. Jonah Lehrer discusses the artistry of confabulation; doctors call it “lying.” (Frontal Cortex)

¶ Prime: Rumors of the demise of Borders, long burbled, have intensified with the news that Borders UK’s Web site is no longer accepting orders. (Guardian; via Arts Journal)

¶ Tierce: What could be more curious than learning that American Ivy League styles took root in Japan among gangs? (Ivy Style)

¶ Sext: Could you do worse than give the Awl diet a try? As long as you’re up, Fernet Branca and stir-fried Romaine sounds great to us.

¶ Nones: We’re rather tired of cataloguing what’s wrong with the United States, but Ahmed Rashid makes things easy: it’s basically everything.

OMG! We meant “Pakistan”! (BBC News)

¶ Vespers: Gordon Wood hopes that historians will wake up and tell stories. (Washington Post)

¶ Compline: Some things are forever, more or less. Complaints written and sent to the Mayor of New York of the moment, at Letters of Note.

Dear Diary: Hoof in Mouth

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


It’s not that I’m cowering in shame, paralysed by the indelible memory of having said something truly stupid (or worse). No. But I am almost allergric, this evening, to the sound of my own voice.

It was a nice day. Still exhausted from the weekend, and feeling entitled, by yesterday’s steady work, to refrain from bounding out of bed the moment I woke up, I progressed in a leisurely fashion to the computer, stopping in the kitchen to boil water for Kathleen’s matutinal tea and toast, when boom: I remembered that I’d made a date to be at the Museum this morning at 10:30.

If I weren’t, just for the moment (I hope), tired of hearing myself talk, I’d tell you about it. I console myself for my silence with the thought that nothing very interesting or unusual happened. At two o’clock, I bid my friends au revoir and said that I must get back to work. I made two stops on Madison Avenue and one on Lex. I was back at work before four. By the time Kathleen got home, shortly before ten, the pizza and the zucchini sticks were still warm enough to be tasty.

Reading about the failure of the ERA’s ratification in Gail Collins’s wonderful book is more dispiriting than I can say. Like Betty Friedan, I should like to have burned Phyllis Schlafly at the stake — although drawing and quartering might have more certainly wiped the smirk off that woman’s face.  Collins’s account is valiant and fair, but I was overwhelmed by hatred all the same. The worst thing about hating someone like Phyllis Schlafly is the mirror principle: your hate is reflected right back, to the extent that the object of your hatred is looking back. Someone hates you — or at least what you believe.  One of the two of you ought to pack up and leave for the New World. But there are no more New Worlds.

As I said, I’m sick of the sound of my own voice. Which I take as a compliment.

Have A Look: Loose Links

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


¶ Shady (Handmade Gone Wrong; via  MetaFilter)

¶ Yantra (ArtCat)

¶ Viking Range @ $775 (You Suck at Craigslist)

Daily Office: Tuesday

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


¶ Matins: A Times over the weekend exhorted Goldman Sachs & al to make a genuine apology — in the form of restitution.

¶ Lauds: Michael Johnston raises a very interesting question that is too often overlooked by viewers: where was the photographer standing? (The Online Photographer)

¶ Prime: onathan Ford and Peter Thal Larsen propose three concrete measures for trimming banks down to salvageable — fail-able — size. First, proportional capital buffers. Second, restore a virtual Glass-Steagall by insulating relatively safe activities from relatively risky ones. Third, dissolve global banks into “confederacies of national subsidiaries.” (Prospect)

¶ Tierce: Mike Sachs imagines the dialogue from porn movies starring his parents. (The New Yorker)

¶ Sext: Sam Kean thinks that William Safire and William F Buckley wrote too well. Was this a by-product of their conservatism? (3 Quarks Daily)

¶ Nones: Clan strife (exacerbated by religious differences) appears to be at the back of the gruesome abduction and massacre of at least 20 lawyers and journalists in the Philippine province of Maguindanao, where the writ of Manila appears not to run very effectively. (NYT)

¶ Vespers: Sonya Chung discovers the drawbacks of multitasking — walking the dog while listening to an audiobook. The piece is really about how dogs are a writer’s best friend because they can’t talk, and Revolutionary Road teaches us that talk destroys; but, hey. (The Millions)

¶ Compline: Owen Flanagan reviews an intriguing book: Reading in the Brain, by Stanislas Dehaene. If our brains haven’t significantly evolved for 200,000 years (by the way: how does anyone know this?), then how have we managed to read for the past five thousand? Exaptation! (New Scientist)

Dear Diary: I Couldn't Possibly

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


This morning, after a spate of taxing dreams, I woke up thinking like Eve Harrington in the New Haven hotel scene at the end of All About Evei: “No, I couldn’t possibly.” The mere idea of getting out of bed was crushing. The thought making up for all the work that I didn’t do this weekend (because I was busy with other work) was totally flattening. I wouldn’t  claim that I’ve given the performance of my life today, but even if I were to stop the day’s work with this sentence, I’d be somewhere between impressed and amazed. And what was the secret? One thing at a time.

First, I chose the links for tomorrow’s Daily Office. The show must go on, after all. Then, putting all of that away, as I would now do on any day, I got to work on the delinquencies. I wrote a Monday Scramble that linked to no new pages at Portico — there weren’t any. I threw together a “Have a Look” entry for this afternoon. I wrote the Book Review review, and then a note about Precious and a short page about the Sam Shepard story in The New Yorker. All of that got published. Then I tackled the Daily Office links. I won’t say that it now takes as long to publish the Daily Office as it does to write it, but I’m still new at this business of cross-publishing (if that’s the word), and I have to think about what I’m doing. (It helps, enormously, that I’ve been playing with two sites for five years now — I know more than I think, going in, about what a new project will entail in the way of checklists — lists that in fact  never get written down. A by now unconscious understanding of the interrelation of the blog (with its WordPress platform) and the Web site (an accumulation of .htm pages, manually uploaded to the server by me) tailors my sense of What’s Next from the very beginning. But I still do have to second-guess myself about publishing the Daily Office once at The Daily Blague and twice at Portico.)

Am I in the middle of some de-blogging phase? I do wonder. The principle blog entries appear at Portico as well, every day. It’s as though I’ve celebrated the fifth anniversary of The Daily Blague by making it redundant. 


Last night’s dinner had one too many courses. Having just made the first winter batch of tomato soup was no reason to put it on the menu. It wasn’t a question of too much food. Rather, there was the extra pot on the stove. Things would have gone more swimmingly if I’d had that burner to work with — or, at least, the stove-top space.

Shrimp risotto — a dish that I’ve made so often lately that I’m almost tiring of it — followed by a three-rib standing roast of beef, with its Yorkshire pudding, horseradish sauce, and a dish of steamed asparagus — would have been plenty. Not to mention the store-bought Opera Cake (an Agata & Valentina specialty that takes the place of coffee at my table.) Yorkshire pudding, by the way, is the easiest thing in the world, if you make individual puddings instead of one gigantic one. Even if you spill some of the 425º hot lard on your trousers because there isn’t room on the stove-top to set down the pan properly.

On Thursday, we’ll be tootling up to Claremont Avenue for a feast to which we’ve been kindly invited. I’ll be weighted down by a quantity of champagne but otherwise untroubled by culinary exercise. Our hosts have the only Manhattan view that I would be happy with if I had to give up the one that I’ve loved for over 25 years: looking east, over Barnard’s campus, at the dome of Low Library. There is something intensely Antonioni about the composition, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what.


What was different between this morning and right now is the small but regular body of work that was due at midnight last night and that has now been completed. It’s simple and obvious, but still somewhat strange to observe that work — meaningful work (and this work here is very meaningful to me, regardless of its use to anyone else) — is a weight that we discharge by doing it. That’s what I minded so much about being tied up with other things over the weekend: I wouldn’t have the pleasure of having done things that were supposed to be done. It’s gotten to the point where I couldn’t possibly put off until tomorrow what I could do today.

Have A Look: Loose Links

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


¶ Plastic Life. (via This, That, These & Those)

¶ Christoph Niemann’s “Bio-Diversity.”

¶ Bamboo in Queens, captured by Scouting NY.

Monday Scramble: Backwash

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


Last night, we gave a small dinner party, partly in order to introduce a young artist to some old friends. The young artist came down with something in the afteroon and wasn’t able to make it, but his mother, whom I hadn’t seen in almost forty years, and who happens to be in town at the moment, was, and so the mini-reunion part of my plans met with success.

The only problem (aside from the lees of red wine) is that I am tossing, today, in a backwash of recollections that, for the moment, only grows more turbulent. To meet with an intelligent friend whom you haven’t seen in forty years is to take a very quick measure of the ground that you have covered in that time. There is also the perplexity of looking at an old snapshot of yourself that you have not seen before. These personal sensations are enveloped in a dim but vast awareness that it really is not, repeat not, all about you.

It is not unlikely that these roiling impressions are inspired by recollections of the great friend whom the young artist’s mother and I had in common, Michael Patrick O’Connor. As I was making the bed this morning, it struck me, with all the force of Rilke’s famous last line, that Michael Patrick was our Archaic Torso. To spend time with him was to know that you must change your life.

Wealth and ease invite us, we forget.
Renouncing talents that you do not need
in moonlit snaps of tourist Attica
discover sleep as an exercise
for the whole body and five eyes
Ignore the rain that has not filled the skies.
                                            (From “Coming Out”)

“Running late” barely attains the level of understatement.

Nano Note: The Big Boys

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009


Last week, I finally got round to something that ought to have happened a lot sooner: I plugged a Nano dock into a right old-fashioned stereo receiver, the kind of amplifier that is connected to big speakers. And here’s the paradox: the Nano’s MP3 files are finally audible at low volumes.

I don’t really know what I’m talking about here. It could be that volumes that seem low coming from the big speakers are high coming from the Klipsch RoomGroove. (As it happens, the big speakers are by Klipsch, too). That seems unlikely, though, as the standard for ambient sound is the moment of distraction. From the very first, I’ve compared the RoomGroove sound to that of the superior table radios of the Fifties (made by Grundig, for example). It’s very good if you’re listening to it. But the big speakers are much better at playing music in the background. Doesn’t that seem odd?

Currently, the stereo systems in each of our three rooms are not connected. I plan to change that in the coming months, laying down a lot of wire and taking advantage of the right-of-way, so to speak, that was established in wiring the wireless boosters to the router. The interconnection of the amplifiers will probably spell the end of the RoomGrooves here. But I plan to change a lot of things in the coming months, so the RoomGrooves will probably be here for a while.

“Stereo system” — does anyone under 30 use that phrase? I can certainly remember a time when no one over 30 did.

Weekend Open Thread: Arrangement With Red Lanterns

Saturday, November 21st, 2009


Constabulary: "Police lie. It's part of their job."

Friday, November 20th, 2009

From a training manual written by retired prosecutor Val Van Brocklin:

Police lie. It’s part of their job. They lie to suspects and others in hopes of obtaining evidence. These investigative lies cover a wide web of deception – a web that can get tangled. Some investigative lies are legal, some are not, and some generate significant disagreement amongst courts, prosecutors, the public and officers themselves.

We’re big boys, so we’re not going to pretend that this is outrageous. What’s outrageous is the little quote that ends Mr Van Brocklin’s summary of a murder trial of a man named Miller that was complicated by a lot of helpful mendacity on the investigating officers’ part.

Miller appealed his conviction. A 3-judge state appellate court unanimously reversed the conviction. Based on the same facts, they ruled the detective engaged in deceptive coercion that shocked the conscience and violated due process.

End of story? Not yet. The state supreme court reinstated the conviction – but only by the hair’s breadth of a 4:3 split decision. After that, Miller took his appeal through federal district court and the United States Supreme Court, and had his conviction affirmed on procedural grounds with neither federal court addressing whether the police conduct was unlawfully deceptive.

The moral of this agonizingly long story? Courts are judges, judges are lawyers, and

You can’t get two lawyers to agree to kill a rat in a bathtub. – Karl S. Johnstone, Superior Court Judge, Retired.

We believe that open contempt for judges and lawyers has no place in a training manual. More than that, though, we’re disturbed by the writer’s disregard for standards of judicial impartiality that have, as it happens, been developed largely as an protective antidote to the thuggish, band-of-brothers mentality that Mr Van Brocklin undisparagingly imputes to police officers. (Officer; via reddit)

Have A Look: Souvenir

Friday, November 20th, 2009


Whoa! Our 30th law school reunion takes place next year. It’s unlikely that we’ll go, what with one thing and another. Not that we don’t love reunions — when they take place in Manhattan! We do, after all, live in the center of the universe! Perversely, however, we went to law school within the ambit of the one town on earth (a windy, lakeside locale) that refuses to acknowledge the self-evident truth of the matter.

Our class secretary (a judge!) sent this montage out the other day, by way of dire warning. I share it with you because I photographed at least six of the eleven images, and may have taken two others. Can you tell which ones?

I know that it was supposed to be law school, but, gawd, I had fun!

Daily Office: Friday

Friday, November 20th, 2009


¶ Matins: Is Bob Cringely mad? His vision of the future, “Pictures in Our Heads” — well you can see where he’s going. (“And the way we’ll shortly communicate with our devices, I predict, will be through our thoughts.”) But it’s the beginning of the entry that caught our eye. The power of Mr Cringely’s assumption (with which we’re ever more inclined to agree), that the iPhone/iTouch is today’s seminal device, from which everything in the future will somehow flow, seems to mark a moment.

¶ Lauds: Isaac Butler outlines just how very hard it is to apportion praise and blame in the highly collaborative atmosphere of the theatre. Mr Butler winds up by pointing out how much easier it is to judge the performance of a classic play, because one of the variables — the text, usually unfamiliar to premiere audiences — is taken out of the problem. (Parabasis; via Arts Journal and the Guardian)

¶ Prime: Jeffrey Pfeffer discusses the “Sad State of CEO Replacement.” His remarks prompt a question: Is the typical board of directors a band of masochists in search of a dominator? The minute a self-assertive bully walks in, they tend to submit with rapture. (The Corner Office)

¶ Tierce: Dave Bry is delighted to learn that the Milwaukee M12 2410-20 won a Popular Mechanics rating for Best Small Cordless Drill (or somesuch). Not that he’s ever going to use one. (The Awl)

¶ Sext: Adam Gopnik addresses the evolution of cookbooks, from aides-mémoire intended for professionals to encyclopedias for novices, and beyond. Oakeshott and gender differences are dragged in. The recent fetish for exotic salts is explained. (The New Yorker)

¶ Nones: Another winter of discontent for Europe? Yulia Tymoshenko is cooking with gas. The new tariff will “ensure  stable supplies of gas,” quoth the prime minister. Really? (NYT)

¶ Vespers: Our favorite literary couples, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, sits for an interview with the Wall Street Journal. We knew the basics. But it’s nice to have a bit of detail. (Who knew that Pasternak’s style is “studied”?) (via The Second Pass)

¶ Compline: At NewScientist, a slideshow taken from Christopher Payne’s Asylum: Inside the closed World of State Mental Hospitals. The show, presumably like Mr Payne’s book, ends on a guardedly positive note. (via  The Morning News)

Bon weekend à tous!